Our overall rating:
There was a time when the hot hatch was a simpler affair; you had your standard hatchback range models, and then a hot range-topping version. These days that’s not enough, because the VW Golf has its iconic hot GTI, and this even more potent Golf R.
The R adds all-wheel drive and boosts power from VW’s 2.0 TSI petrol engine to 296bhp, ensuring better traction and even more impressive performance figures. Of course, because it’s still essentially a VW Golf, it benefits from the same high-quality interior and well thought out cabin.
It goes up against rivals such as BMW’s rear-wheel drive M135i and Audi’s four-wheel drive S3. The R also gets more performance than these rivals, but the Audi’s finer cabin and similar practicality for slightly less money make it an appealing choice. Meanwhile, the BMW’s rear-drive layout means more playful dynamics and its punchy turbocharged six-cylinder petrol engine gives a more brutish driving experience. BMW’s infotainment system remains the one to beat, too.